For the past two years there was no sighting of the Saint Lucia Racer.
After many searches not a single individual was found. The Saint Lucia National Trust (SLNT), Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, the Forests and Lands Resources Department (Forestry Department) and Fauna & Flora International continued their relentless efforts in searching for the elusive Racer never giving up hope.
On January 5th, 2016 a team consisting of Saphira Hunt -SLNT’s Programme Assistant-Conservation, Vincent “Jeg” Clarke -Volunteer and SLNT member, Stephen Lesmond – Wildlife Field Guide of the Forestry Department and Webster Albert -Police Officer attached to the Laborie Police Station ventured out to Maria Islands to conduct routine monitoring.
On this trip the team was extremely fortunate in capturing a healthy young Saint Lucia Racer. According to Ms. Hunt, “This was quite a joyous moment for the team and hope for the survival of the species.
Capturing a youngster means the population is breeding which in turn is a good sign for the species”.
Mr. Pius Haynes – the Senior Wildlife Protection Officer- was also very elated over this recent sighting and said, “The conservation of the Saint Lucia Racer is of paramount importance to the Forestry Department and a rare encounter like this one has just renewed our hope of achieving this goal”.
The snake was carefully released in the very location it was found after a brief inspection to ascertain its state of health.
The Saint Lucia Racer Erythrolamprus ornatus is a small, non-venomous, harmless snake that was once abundant on the mainland of Saint Lucia.
It’s now found only on Maria Major: the bigger offshore island which makes up the Maria Islands Nature Reserve.
It was wiped out from the mainland after mongooses were introduced to Saint Lucia in the 19th Century and preyed on the Racers.
The Saint Lucia Racer is endemic to Saint Lucia and was declared extinct in 1936. However, it was rediscovered in 1973 when a single individual was caught on Maria Islands Nature Reserve.
The Maria Islands was declared a Nature Reserve in 1982 and is managed by the Saint Lucia National Trust with the Forestry Department being the agency responsible for the conservation
and protection of this species and other wildlife there. A survey was conducted in 2012 which estimated the number of Saint Lucia Racer to be between 18 to 100 individuals.
The Saint Lucia Racer now holds the title of the “world’s rarest snake”. It is protected under the Saint Lucia Wildlife Act along with other endemic, endangered and threatened species.
There is a sentence of twelve (12) months imprisonment or a Five Thousand Dollars ($5000.00) fine for anyone found violating the Act. Permission is required from the Saint Lucia National Trust to visit Maria Island Nature Reserve.
The Saint Lucia National Trust, Forestry Department, Fauna & Flora International and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust will be undertaking a full survey on the Saint Lucia Racer within the coming months with support from these agencies: Disney Conservation Fund and the US Fish & Wildlife Service’s Critically Endangered Animals Conservation Fund.
Together let’s do all we can to save this species from extinction.
For more information on SLNT’s ongoing Conservation activities at the Maria Islands Nature Reserve, please contact Craig Henry or Saphira Hunt at telephone 454-5014. For more information on Saint Lucia’s wildlife, please contact Pius Haynes, Wildlife Protection Officer at telephone 468-5645 or 518-7154.
NTN will be airing ‘Hiding for Survival’ a short video about the Saint Lucia Racer on Monday, January 18th at 6:15 p.m. and Tuesday, January 19th at 6:15 a.m. and 12:15 p.m.